Porte fights for Tour leadership at Dauphine

Richie Porte wants to be BMC Racing's top GC man at the Tour de France, and he's using the Critérium du Dauphiné to show off his skills.

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MILAN (VN) — Richie Porte’s aim is clear: lead BMC Racing outright in the Tour de France next month. The Tasmanian showed in the Critérium du Dauphiné Sunday in Les Gets, France why he should be in consideration for team control with American Tejay van Garderen.

Porte powered up Le Mont Chéry’s switchbacks during the opening prologue in France’s southeast. In the 4-kilometer uphill stage, he bettered Sky’s Chris Froome by 7 seconds, but arrived 6 seconds shy of Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador. The result, sandwiched between two double Tour victors, bodes well for this July.

“I haven’t raced for the good part of a month and a half and I’ve flown under the radar so much this year,” the 31-year-old Porte said in the ski resort town. “No one has even mentioned my name.”

For American fans, van Garderen has been the name to know for the past few years at the Tour de France. After joining BMC Racing from HTC – Highroad in 2012, he has been consistently giving the U.S. WorldTour team results. He rode to fifth overall at the Tour in 2012 and 2014. Last year, he sat in third place behind Froome and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana when a respiratory infection forced him to abandon in stage 17 to Pra Loup.

Van Garderen’s 2016 season began successfully with a time trial win in the Ruta del Sol stage race and includes a second overall there, a Tirreno-Adriatico time trial win, and a fifth overall at the Volta a Catalunya. When Porte pulled out of the Tour de Romandie, the 27-year-old van Garderen soldiered on to place 10th overall.

Fans know Porte from his days of working for Contador on Tinkoff – Saxo and both Bradley Wiggins and Froome at Sky. Last year, Porte won the overall at Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, and the Giro del Trentino. Porte has not been as lucky in grand tours, however. He suffered a chest infection when Sky gave him leadership in the 2014 Tour and crashed out of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

The scenario changed when Porte joined BMC. The team now counts two equally talented riders to lead its Tour team. If one is suffering, the other can take over. Porte quit the Tour de Romandie in April with gastrointestinal problems and a fever, and as he said, he flew under the radar to reach the week-long Critérium du Dauphiné.

“It’s good to be coming into this race with less pressure,” Porte added. “There was certainly no hiding [in the prologue] so I think it is good for me in the big picture.”

BMC says it wants to win the race overall with Porte over the next six days. Another one of its teams with van Garderen at the helm will try to do the same at the Tour de Suisse starting this weekend. How the two perform will determine the hierarchy of BMC’s team starting the Tour on July 2 in Normandy.

Porte said before the Dauphiné started, “Knowing that it will be my last race before the Tour de France, I want to show what I can do.”

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